Josh Denison, a 12-year-old goaltender, shows a strong skating technique on the new Skate treadmill in the Sterling Centre. (Parker Crook/Morning Star)

Josh Denison, a 12-year-old goaltender, shows a strong skating technique on the new Skate treadmill in the Sterling Centre. (Parker Crook/Morning Star)

Vernon skatemill safe and sound

Treadmill strengthens stride, core

Just seven or eight minutes on Skate and I knew there may not be a happy ending to this treadmill experiment.

However, through the encouragement and technical expertise of trainer Colton Thibault, I actually stood upright, ankles burning like they were on a barbecue spit. I took a break, was tossed a water bottle, and watched 12-year-old Josh Donison skate like he was Apolo Ohno warming up for the Olympics.

My ego wouldn’t let me say no to a second go-round. This time, Thibault, a former Salmon Arm Silverback who was a smooth skater for three years in the BCHL, used a hockey stick to give me better balance and ensure my head was always up as I worked on my edge control, moving from side to side on the $70,000 California-made skatemill. I was in a harness and there was a bar in front so I felt safe.

Known simply as Skate, the treadmill works on posture, mechanics, quick transitions, crossovers and core balance. Once you feel comfortable on skates, you can bring in a stick and puck and works on puck control, skills and positional tactics.

​”That’s it, you’re getting it,” smiled the muscle-bound Thibault now known as a mill master. “The key is when you are squatting low not to dip into your inside edge. Once we work on stride mechanics, then we progress from there. You will notice a difference once you get on the ice.”

You will find Skate within Easthill Physiotherapy and Acupuncture’s new second location in the Sterling Centre on 27th Avenue (across from the Warehouse Foods Store). It officially opened last Monday.

Easthill Physiotherapy has partnered with the owners of Vernon Court Reporters, Stacey and Brad Donison, in opening Vernon’s first skatemill. Skatemills provide the latest technology in sports fitness and are used for a variety of training purposes, including the enhancement of hockey or ringette players’ skating technique and skill development, and for anyone wanting to learn to skate or to up their cardiovascular conditioning. Stacey Donison is a huge Edmonton Oiler fan which makes her a smart hockey mind.

“By combining the two businesses in a shared space it will enable us to provide our clients with the added rehabilitation of skate therapy in addition to our manual therapy and acupuncture services,” said Judy Fullerton, clinic owner and physiotherapist. “We are also a fully certified concussion management clinic that provides baseline testing for teams and a full concussion rehabilitation protocol, which meshes well with the Skate clientele.”

Fullerton and her husband, Bruce Waldie, are in the partnership group.

The Skate facility is state of the art, with the skaters enjoying a fantastic view overlooking the city. Spectators can watch the skaters from the outdoor balcony or from the comfortable, inviting clinic. Each client receives one-on-one coaching from a trainer who design specific drills and programs for each skater depending on their needs. You can learn to skate from scratch or use the skatemill for injury rehabilitation.

“So far, we have had awesome feedback from our clients. With one of our fabulous trainers, Colton Thibault, the skaters are really improving from his coaching already. We are so excited to bring this skatemill to Vernon, which will provide a more convenient location for the city’s active hockey community to train and enhance performance,” said Stacey Donison, a long-time and active supporter of the Vernon Vipers, and a billet coordinator for the team.

“Currently the nearest skatemill is in Kelowna so there is a real need to have training facilities closer to home.”

The skatemill is similar to a runner’s treadmill but wider and longer with a specially designed surface that allows players to practise skating techniques on a surface that resembles ice. It’s a good idea to book Skate with two or three buddies so you can rotate on and off while taking a breather. The skatemill tops out between 20 and 30 miles an hour and can be set to varying inclines to add difficulty.

“You can train hard and have fun at the same time,” said Josh, a goalie with the Nixon Wenger Jr. Pee Wee Tier 3 Vipers. “Colton makes training fun. It’s good for my conditioning and has improved my skating speed.”

Thibault said he and several other Junior A, WHL and NHL players regularly use a similar skate treadmill known as AKHockey at the Capital News Centre in Kelowna. He’s happy to have one closer to home.

Like treadmills, skatemills have variable speeds and inclines to add to the difficulty level. Skatemills are commonly used in training facilities for NHL teams and are quickly becoming more common in hockey arenas and fitness centers.

Whether you are a high-level hockey player, recovering from an injury or want to improve your cardiovascular conditioning, the skate mill is the ultimate training machine. The Skatemill provides customized training, conditioning, rehabilitation and skill development for players and skaters of all ages and levels.

For information about the skatemill — individual and team package pricing are available — and customized training programs and scheduling options, visit, or call 250-542-2655.

The clinic is a leading provider of research-based manual therapy and acupuncture as well as baseline testing and complete concussion management, women’s health and pelvic floor rehabilitation.


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